Friday, August 21, 2009

Campaigners call for commission of inquiry into junta crimes

by Mungpi
Thursday, 20 August 2009 23:00

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Campaigners say now is the time for the international community, particularly the United Nations, to call on the Security Council to establish a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by Burma’s military rulers.

With the recent sentencing of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and the continued cleansing of minorities in remote areas of the country, Burma’s military rulers have clearly demonstrated their ruthlessness and stubbornness in ignoring calls for reform, three campaign group said on Wednesday.

Debbie Stothard, coordinator for the Alternative Asean Network on Burma (Altsean Burma), one of the three groups that has called on the Security Council to establish a commission of inquiry, said the international community, while offering condemnation through rhetoric, has done little practical to push the junta to implement changes in Burma.

“It is high time that the international community stop accepting the junta’s actions and stand up,” Stothard told Mizzima on Thursday.

Altsean Burma, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Burma Lawyers Council (BLC) in their statement on Wednesday called on the European Union, which tightened economic sanctions on the junta in the wake of the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi, to support their call in setting up a commission of inquiry.

The statement said the new sanctions imposed by the EU are totally inadequate in the face of the worsening human rights situation and ongoing atrocities against ethnic nationalities in Burma.

“These sanctions reflect the political unwillingness of the EU to take a firm stance on this issue and increase dangerously the risk that the regime will consider this as a green light to continue committing international crimes,” said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH, in the statement.

On August 11, a special court in Rangoon’s Insein Prison announced the verdict of the over two-month trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, finding her guilty and sentencing her to three years of prison with hard labor.

But the country’s military Supremo, Senior General Than Shwe, intervened the court session via a special order and commuted the sentence by half, contingent upon good moral behavior, while also allowing her to serve her time at her lakeside home.

Following the sentencing several countries have issued statements condemning the junta, though a few have hailed the junta for its apparent leniency in commuting Aung San Suu Kyi’s sentence.

“The EU must not be fooled by the SPDC’s [Burma’s military government] phony attempt to show leniency on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The SPDC has fulfilled its strategy to keep Daw Aung San Suu Kyi out of the picture while, at the same time, the SPDC tells the world that Burma is on the path to democracy. How can the SPDC’s planned elections be given any credence when war still rages in Eastern Burma?” Stothard questioned.

Stothard said several thousand ethnic citizens in eastern Burma are currently being displaced as a result of fresh atrocities committed by the junta’s soldiers.

“If the junta is sincere in their plans and want to implement changes, the junta must stop killing the ethnics. Burma’s politics is not just about Aung San Suu Kyi and the regime but it is also the issue of ethnic nationalities,” Stothard emphasized.

Stothard added that the international community, particularly the United Nations, has not been taking effective measures to force the junta to cease their behavior.

“The UN has very little or no pressure at all on the SPDC. And the SPDC knows that they can continue playing around with international politics,” she said, referring to the junta’s official name of State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

Meanwhile, the US-based Global Justice Centre (GJC), in a press statement, denounced UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for his reaction over the Burmese junta’s sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi, the only detained Nobel Peace Laureate.

The GJC said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks on the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi are totally at odds with his mandate under the UN Charter.

“As a Representative of the UN, and given these circumstances, international law requires Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to call for an end to impunity, not convey his ‘disappointment’ and call for ‘reconciliation’,” argued the GJC in their statement.

The GJC said instead of calling the verdict “disappointing” and “deplorable”, Ban should refer the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court, concluding that Ban’s remarks “undermine the rule of law.”

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